The Cranleigh Evangelical Free Church is situated in Cranleigh, Surrey and existed as a place of worship from 1918 till the end of the century. The Evangelical Church was established and originally set up as a breakaway from the Cranleigh Baptist Church after the war. However, over a period of time the parishioners attending gradually declined until it was finally only being used by one family. Other churches in Cranleigh tried to offer financial help but this was not successful and the church was finally closed down in November 2000. At the time of its closure there were only six members who were all quite elderly. With these declining circumstances it was very difficult for the church to continue, bearing in mind the responsibility involved in not only maintaining the church programme, but in looking after the building. This became an increasing problem as the members were growing older and more frail. It was purchased by a London based estate agent in December 2002 and actively marketed. The site and building posed serious challenges for any potential purchaser as the site is small and cramped and is located in a back land location surrounded by houses and it had inadequate facilities for parking. There was no parking possible on the site as the only access was via a small concrete footbridge over Littlemead Brook. In addition, there were planning restrictions imposed by the local council and the church is located on a “one in a hundred year” flood plain.
The church was finally purchased by the current owners in June 2005 and the lengthy design and planning process started.
The brief was to convert the church into a two storey residential dwelling with associated parking and vehicular access. Our proposals included the widening of the existing footbridge across the stream to provide vehicular access onto the site. The existing building consisted of a large open hall at the front with a single storey element at the rear.
The building is constructed of brick and render with large windows running down both sides of the main hall. Planning permission was sought for the change of use of the church into a residential dwelling. It was not proposed to increase the footprint of the building because this would not have been acceptable to the Environmental Agency as it would have adversely affected the flood volume displacement.
The bedroom accommodation was located on a new first floor and comprised four bedrooms with a family bathroom which was accessed off a new gallery open to the main living space below. The main living area is on the ground floor of the main hall with a small study and playroom constructed at the front of the building. The new first floor gallery with the main hall covers approximately two thirds of the total floor retaining the full height of the original hall in the remaining area. Access to this gallery is via a helical staircase which was manufactured by Winchcombe Farm Designs Ltd. (01635 871664).
The kitchen is located at the rear within the original single storey part of the building with a utility room and downstairs cloakroom.
In order to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Agency the original raked (sloping) ground floor had to be raised between 150-450mm, to get the new, flat surface above the postulated flood level. Due to the possibility of flooding, careful consideration had to be given to the construction of the new floors and walls. Low permeability materials were required to prevent water penetration so the new floor was constructed using the concrete ‘beam and block’ method rather than the cheaper timber alternative. This will reduce the damage to the fabric of the building during any future floods. The new floor was supported by new internal foundations which were also constructed for the new steel posts which carried the first floor steelwork.
The new internal walls were constructed in blockwork rather than using metal or timber studs and a hydraulic lime plaster was used rather than the standard gypsum. All the electrical wiring and power points are now located at a higher level with no cables or other services running below the postulated flood level. The roof was stripped and replaced providing the insulation required to comply with the current Building Regulations as were the external walls which were dry-lined and the existing cavity filled. All the existing windows were removed and replaced with double glazed ones, complete with glazing bars to match the existing ones. New windows and rooflights were installed in the first floor bedrooms. The existing footbridge across the stream was widened to provide vehicular access onto the site.
The building works took approximately eight months to complete which was considerably less than the time taken to obtain the necessary planning approval!